What 4.5 Years and 1 Million Views of Blogging Have Taught Me

About four and a half years ago, I asked my then agent what I could do to better my odds of success as an author, other than writing and writing some more. Among his chief suggestions? Start a blog.

Write for free in the spare time I don’t exactly have? It sounded like dreadful homework, but like many writers, I was eager to do whatever it took to move forward. That “whatever” turned out to be one of the most important professional decisions I’ve made.

Over the weekend, my blog reached 1 million views. While numbers are by far not the most important thing and all relative, this felt pretty awesome—especially considering I recall very well a time I nearly pleaded people to check it out. (Uh, that’s not a suggestion.)

PLEASE? I'll do anything!

PLEASE? I’ll do anything!

Some writers might hear “a million views” and think, “Yeah, but it was all for FREE!” Heck, if if I’d received a penny for every hit, I’d be $10,000 richer. But I can assure you, I’ve received much more than that.

Blogging has helped me build a readership before my first book even released, introduced me to wonderful friends and given me a platform to share and connect with others in ways I hadn’t imagined possible. It’s led to speaking and writing gigs, including my highest paying magazine assignment, some groovy awards and, three years ago, facilitated the launch of Girl Boner®—which led to Girl Boner® Radio. It continues to fill the emotional gaps between writing for others, this writing that is fully mine—no rules or hard deadlines, no editor’s sharp eye or endless rewrites—only me, my soul and my fingers, typing to my heart’s desire, very often letting whatever’s on my mind spill out on the page. In that vulnerability lies strength and even healing.

Blogging isn’t for everyone, but if you’re the least bit curious about what it might bring or allow for you, I highly recommend giving it a try. If you do, or if you’re currently blogging and it does feel like annoying homework, here are some of my favorite strategies:

Write what you’re compelled to write, no matter how seemingly “big” or “small.” When I speak about blogging, I’m nearly always asked what one should write about. The answer is, whatever you wish. Your content doesn’t have to tie in to a particular theme or product. (Yes, Girl Boner® is my brand now, but you’ll also find me reminiscing about whatever and writing about my dog.) It simply has to matter to you.

Be consistent, but not rigid, schedule-wise. When I first started blogging, I’d read that three posts per week is ideal. Holy way-too-much-for-me. I tried it, then quickly realized that I needed to make time for stuff like sleep. If super frequent posting works for you, great! I find that about once per week suits me. Find a rhythm that works for you, and if you need a break, take it.

Set aside fear of what others might think. Yes, it’s important to consider your audience and loved ones when blogging, but there’s a huge difference between consideration and fear. Don’t let fear of others’ judgment hold you back; that’s stifling in all life areas.

Prioritize authenticity, not popularity. When I started Girl Boner®, a few told me I’d definitely gain readers, because “sex sells!” Everyone wants to read about sex, right? Yes and no. There are gazillions of sex blogs and articles, so joining that genre was a bit like becoming a drop in an ocean, versus a kiddie pool. My most popular posts aren’t my most explicit or seemingly “marketable” posts. They’re the ones I feel most compelled to write.

And remember, building takes time. Here’s how my blog’s growth looks visually:

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Don’t over-strategize. Hey, isn’t this a list of strategies? Yup. But I’m talking about not becoming an over-strategizing-numbers-likes-shares/trendy-topic-obsessed monster. My favorite people to read and follow online are those who are *gasp* human. They share to share or because they feel (that word again!) compelled to, not for a particular reaction. That authenticity shows in their writing, their brands and their worlds. And you know what? They’re going far. Gentle strategies here and there, groovy. Fixating on acclaim, not fun or helpful.

Lastly, dive into the community. Seek and explore other blogs. Follow, comment on and share those you dig. Mix and mingle with Kristen Lamb’s brainchild, the #MyWANA community. Check out BlogHer—the best conference on anything I’ve been to, and much more. Spend even 10 minutes a day scoping things out through WordPress, Twitter or Facebook. Chances are, you’ll find your tribe. That is the beginning of awesome.

What has blogging taught you? If you’re thinking of starting, what’s holding you back? Any questions you’d love thoughts on? I love hearing from you all—and am so grateful for the time you’ve taken to read any of my work. It means so much. ♥

“I’m blunt? Oh, yeah…” What Has Your Blogging Mirror Taught You?

It’s tough to recall exactly when I started blurting, but I suspect it coincided with another milestone: the day I started speaking. According to my parents, one of my earliest emerged when I wasn’t yet two. My mom had just broken the news that I could no longer sip from the Bosom Bar because she was pregnant with another, which would turn our family of five into six.

“So you’re going to be four mommies?” I asked, pondering the upcoming NKOTB. (Don’t pretend you don’t know what that means.)

“Yes.”

“Well, there’s only one daddy, and he’s all mine.” I swear I’m not a sociopath. A bit envious back then, sure, but not conscience-less. (Thank goodness. I’ve been researching the heck out of sociopathology for an upcoming radio episode.)

When I learned the other morning that Girl Boner is a finalist for Best Blunt Blog in The Indie Chicks’ Badass Blog Awards, I was crazy-honored, but also surprised. Sure, I’m prone to blurting, but… I’m blunt?

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Our blog-mirrors sure tell us a lot! #bluntandproudofit

For some reason, I correlated “blunt” with rude comments, like my toddler-remark had it been said by a mature adult. Back then, I had that cute-cuz-I’m-a-kid thing going on. Then I thought about it.Blunt can mean harsh, but it can also mean uncompromisingly forthright, direct and to the point. (Thank you, Webster!)

Hmm…

I have talked a lot about clitorises, my brain-gasm MRI, bralessness and ex-partners. And if there’s one thing #GirlBoner isn’t, it’s subtle. (Call me crazy, but I don’t think #ExcitedDownThere has the same ring to it.) Subtlety wouldn’t get me anywhere in a culture in which innumerable obstacles stand in the way of female sexual embracement, keeping way too many women from living full, authentic lives—often with little, if any, knowledge that it’s happening. Not because they aren’t brilliant, but because of the world we live in.

See? There I go again. #NotSorry Partly because maintaining this blog helped me embrace myself further. It’s also shed light on who I actually am—which is rather key to the whole living authentically thing.

That’s one of the most beautiful things about blogging: the mirror it provides us. When I first started, I worried that readers would deem me a perplexing ping-pong ball. “I’m all over the place!” But you know what? None of us are as bouncy as we may think. Common threads appear when we let the words flow—or, in my case, dart. If we don’t stand in their way, we never know where they’ll lead.

That doesn’t mean everyone should write about clits and brain-gasms, of course, or anything controversial. What’s important is being who we are, out loud, without crippling fear over what others will think. Blogging unapologetically has literally changed my life, leading to everything from incredible friendships to my radio show and speaking gigs. This week, it led to this groovy award nomination.

I’m so, so grateful.

When I told my mom about the nomination, she started giggling and singing, “Everybody blurts (hurts), sometimes….” LOL Surely, I got my blurt-gene from her. Anyhow, if you’d like to vote for me—or anyone!—use this link:

Blog Awards: Vote for the Finalists! #ICBBAwards

I also highly recommend subscribing to the publication while you’re there, and liking/following them on Facebook and Twitter (@TheIndieChicks). While you’re there, wish them a happy birthday! They’re celebrating three years of empowering awesomeness. Huge congrats to my pals Jess Witkins and Aussa Lorens for being nominated as well! So well-deserved. ♥

What has blogging taught you about yourself? What’s the biggest blurt that’s ever escaped your lips? Are you blunt? Your comments and support give me a #GirlBoner. Seriously.

Blog Comment Specialness and Link Party!

“Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.” – Aristotle

Bourchercon is going on this weekend, and I’m not there. I’d be lying if I said that I was fine and dandy with that. It’s the first genre-specific conference I attended, after my brilliant friend Robert Ward demanded I go, and I’ve been in love ever since. I hadn’t yet started blogging (Wait… Life existed before then?!?), and where I learned the value of being submersed in a community who accepts, encourages and seems to truly get you.

My bit of blah has reminded me of my favorite perks of social media: friendships and community. From the time I started pursuing writing professionally until late 2011 B.B. (before blogging), I found myself in lonely slumps every so often. I was happy overall, mind you—more gratified by my creative and professional life than ever before. I still am. But even the most wondrous life events can’t fulfill us without cherished connectedness with others; I finally get that.

When those slumps occurred back then, writing seemed like necessary medicine and an escape. It was truthfully, at best, a temporary fix and a distraction. Everything benefits from connectedness with others, our work included. That’s where you all come in. While there’s no substitute for in-person mingling, I no longer have to wait months or more to feel a sense of community.

Helen Keller quote

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth articulating again. I’m crazy grateful for the support, friendships and interaction social media provides. You all are a special breed of awesome! There have been countless times when I’ve felt a bit down or frustrated about one of life’s bumps and someone (likely one of you!) on the inter-web uplifted me—often without have a clue that they did so. Difficult happenings seem more tolerable when we share them. Good news morphs into magnificence. And those of us who spend a heck of a lot of time working solo can rest easy, knowing we’re part of something spectacular—a community of likeminded, like-hearted people who have our backs.

Sure, social media also brings challenges. We’re just as likely to run into heated debates and rudeness as we are in “real” life. Sometimes it’s worse, as people feeling somewhat anonymous may spout out nastiness they’d never say to your face. But as with the rest of the world, we can choose what we focus on, and whatever we choose grows. Add to that the fact that we tend to attract people with commonalities, and I’d say that the social media world is a pretty dang magical place.

On Monday, I noticed that I’d received my 10,000th blog comment. The person who posted it is special for numerous reasons. Though we’ve never met in person, I consider him a pal. He’s friendly and supportive, has a keen sense of humor and posted one of my most cherished comments to date a while back. I hope I’m not embarrassing him by sharing it, but I think you’ll see why I value it so much:

Comments like these are fuel! Thank you, David.

Comments like these are fuel! Thank you, David.

*reaches for tissues* See what I mean??? David also has a blog you should all check out if you haven’t, and a brand-spankin’ new release! I hope you’ll pop by his blog living room and say hello. You can also follow him on twitter: @davidnwalkertx.

And now…

LET’S PARTY!

To take the celebration further, I’d like to have a little link-share party. To participate, post one link you’d like to promote in the comments below. (More than one will send your comment to spam-land, and that’s no place to party.)

You have two options: Share a blog post of your own that made you laugh, smile or SQUEEEE!, due to the post itself or people’s comments. Or share a post you read that totally made your day—then let that person know you did so. Then stick around or pop back later to check out others’ links and keep the support and fun flowing!

Thanks again to ALL of you for the continual support! The fact that you take time out of your day to consider my thoughts and words then share your own means more than I can say. To the many more of you who don’t post comments or interact with me elsewhere, please know that you mean just as much! It’s many writers’ dream to have their words and stories not only in existence, but read. You are magic. ♥

Blogging Commandments: What Works for Me

I’ve attended a variety of writing events over the past few months, and have engaged in some interesting discussions on blogging. To blog or not to blog? Is it effective for authors? What works and what doesn’t? These are just a few of the common blog-related questions writers face—questions with no simple or all encompassing answers.

Okay, so that's only part of it...

Okay, so that’s only part of it…

Through research and experience, we can find those answers for ourselves. My roughly 1.5 years of blogging has taught me a heck of a lot—both through manning my own blog and learning from fabulous others. Toward that end, I thought I’d share some of the guidelines that tend to work well for me.

My 7 Commandments of Blogging

1. Thou shalt never prioritize blogging over book writing.

Like many writers, I started blogging to build my author platform (and because my agent suggested I do). I’ve enjoyed many unexpected benefits since—fabulous friendships, fun social media interaction and more. These perks could easily take up most of my time and energy if I let them. I might even have fun in the process. But before long, I’d be sad—deeply sad, because writing (stories, namely) is my heart and, quite often, my sanity. And an ungratified heart hurts, big time. Then there’s that little thing called money; without book and article writing, I wouldn’t have any. Unless we want to be bloggers who write manuscripts on the side, working blogging into a healthy writing lifestyle that supports our craft first and foremost is vital. If you struggle with social media time-suck, save it for warmups, cool-downs and breaks. (Think of it as snacks and dessert, versus the fruits, veggies and entree.)

2. Thou shalt aim for consistency.

I’m a pantser through and through. I don’t outline, loathe schedules and use calendars primarily as wall decor. And yet, blogging if or when the spirit moves me seems unwise.* I feel that my readers deserve more than that. Plus, posting because we’re committed to doing so—not necessarily inspired—builds writer-strength. We work that get-it-done muscle, and learn that inspiration will come if we simply sit our butts down and write. I aim for two posts per week, generally on Mondays and Thursdays, but without holding myself to either with an iron fist. (Again, book work comes first.)

*I know several awesome bloggers who don’t use even loose posting schedules. If consistent inconsistency works for you, so be it! The key is finding what works for us.

3. Thou shalt write what you’re compelled to.

This might sound somewhat contrary to the above, but it isn’t. (What if we’re not compelled to write a post by post day?) We’re all compelled to discuss, share or explore ideas. It’s part of what makes us writers. Rather than write about something that seems marketable or stats-boosting, or because it’s easy—i.e., we’re expert in it, I prefer to write with my heart and gut. It lends itself to stronger, more enjoyable-to-write and share posts, and reader appreciation; they can sense authenticity and complacency.

4. Thou shalt listen to and respect your readers.

I’ve been happily surprised by how helpful readers can be in terms of shaping my content and helping me grow as a writer. Interacting with readers via blog comments and elsewhere on social media shows that we care, and provides an opportunity to understand what strikes them most. Such engagement may also reveal related topics or angles they’d like explored further—which may compel you to do so. 😉 If you want to know more about your readers, ask questions. The more engagement, the better, in my opinion.

5. Thou shalt support other bloggers and writers.

Supporting others benefits us in a variety of ways. First, it feels good. (It’s far more fun to tell Twitter and Facebook friends that they’ve “got to read this post/book!” when it’s someone else’s post/book—not ours.) Second, bloggers we support often reciprocate—though I don’t think that this should be the primary reason behind liking, commenting and sharing; give to give. Some bloggers take such support even further. Gene Lempp and Reetta Raitanen post thoughtful mashups on their blogs. Susie Lindau throws awesome promote-your-stuff/mingle with other bloggers parties. It doesn’t have to be overly time consuming, and can be a lot of fun. In addition to the support factor, hosting mashups, guest bloggers and author interviews can save us time.

6. Thou shalt proof read.

Going back through some of my early posts can be horrifying nauseating offsetting, as I haven’t always taken time to proofread my posts. (Shhh!) It’s ironic, as many of us start out nervous about blogging because we’re used to perfecting our other work. But how can we perfect blog posts and do everything else? When I started out, I tried to fit too much in too soon. “Perfection” isn’t necessary, but making sure we’ve made a solid effort at fixing grammatical errors and the like is important. For particularly important posts, I often ask my dear friend—and skilled writer/editor—Bill Parker for his expert once over. (Not sure I’ve met anyone who can read and spot typos so quickly.) Blog posts are meant to be more casual than our other writing, but they go out into the world, and we never know who might see it. We should aim to put our best blogging foot forward. If that means cutting back from three to two posts per week or delaying a post a day or two, as I have, do it.

7. Thou shalt have fun. Blogging because we feel we should, yet loathe it, isn’t likely to breed success in any arena of our lives. If it isn’t fun, or as fun as you’d like it to be, consider changing things up. I’m pretty sure I could build a sizable blogging platform in the realm of nutrition, but I’m a health writer. Endless posts about what I’m already covering elsewhere would feel like needless homework, or gratuitous “I just want higher stats!” posts. So, I cover food-related topics when I’m compelled to (sick of that word yet???). Otherwise I stick to topics that light my fire, like Girl Boners, music and thrillers.

Speaking of fun, if you haven’t checked out social media jedi master Kristen Lamb’s blog and books, what rock have you been hiding under? you should. I thought Twitter was the lamest thing since size 0 jeans until I read her stuff. Be forewarned—it’s addictive. If you’re brand spankin’ new to blogging, check out Ginger Calem’s Building a Blog in April. She’ll help you up onto your feet, and one of her lucky graduates will win a spot in Kristen’s more advanced blogging class through WANA International. For more from yours truly, and many other authors and speakers, I hope you’ll consider attending the OWFI Conference in May. I’ll be sharing insight on blogging for building an author platform (without going crazy!), and a teaching a workshop on hybrid author-hood, or going indie with an agent. (Excited!)

We’ve got to do what works best for us if we want to grow and thrive as writers. The above guidelines have helped me expand my writing, gained me some pretty nifty freelance and speaking gigs, and helped nurture my feeble “Will anyone read this?!?” blog into one with a pretty solid and steadily growing readership. The rest of my personal blogging growth (and I’m sure many of you can relate) boils down to trial and error, instinct and simply keeping on. And while I don’t have a specified breakdown, I have no doubt that my online platform has played a role in my book sales—a valuable one. I hope that wherever you are in your journey, you’ll continually find what rocks your writing world.

Do any of these resonate with you? What similar or vastly different commandments make your list? Any questions, challenges or related thoughts to share?

Is it Time to Change Your Blog?

What the heck should I write about? What if no one reads my posts? What if EVERYONE does? What if HE does? Or SHE does?

Many bloggers obsess over ponder these questions early on. Then little-by-little we mature, from little baby blog-o-nitas to blog-alescents until finally, we reach hot blog mama-and-papa adulthood—perfect post, after perfect post. They flow from us like soap bubbles through a blower, impressing every reader equally and never ever causing a lick of stress.

*Falls over laughing* Yes, we gain confidence and skills. But even then, blogging involves continual growth. While that’s a great thing, it can bring growing pains. We may realize we’re posting too frequently or seldom, that our graphics or theme needs work or that we’ve grown complacent, too wordy or sloppy. Blogs grow along with us. It only makes sense that they’d change as we do.

Sometimes the greener grass we seek is right beneath our feet.

I’ve experienced a bit of my own blog-angst recently over a couple of secrets I’ve been keeping from you all. Sorry! Not my preference, trust me. Normally, I write whatever I’m compelled to. But for reasons I shan’t fully disclose (involving technicalities and even legalities), a couple of sizzling-hot tid bits (sizzling to me, anyway) have been growing into untamable flames inside me, making me want to burst on a daily, sometimes more frequent, basis.

So, spill ’em already! I hear some of you saying. Not yet. 😉 I can set the stage, however, by announcing some blog changes I’ll be making pronto:

A new blog schedule. (Did I just use the s-word? Yipes!) Until now, I’ve posted twice most every week, on whatever days I choose. From now on, I’ll aim to post every Monday and Thursday. Guessing many of you haven’t noticed my variance anyway.

Thematic post days: On Mondays, I’ll focus on sexuality, sexual empowerment for women and related topics, such as romance and sexual health. In honor of #ThrillerThursday (a fabulous weekly Twitter event), and my main fiction work, I’ll post on whatever thrills me at the time on Thursdays. This could include writing, books, authors, movies, animals, food, psychology, music—the list goes on, and on… I didn’t mention Mondays’ theme-name, now did I? NOPE! T.B.A. 😉

Perhaps now you can see why the schedule is important. Sex and all-(other ;))-things-thrilling are vastly different channels. If you’re not into sex-related topics, you can skip over my Monday posts. If you LOVE reading about sexuality, or simply want to join in upbeat, sex-related, empowering, sometimes silly discussion, you might opt to read my blog only on Mondays. Totally up to you, as always. I think this shift will make things easier for all of us.

Making these decisions got me thinking about blog changes in general. We all make tweaks along the way. The following have helped guide my ways.

Signs Your Blog or Blog Habits Need Changing:

1. It takes away from other writing. When I started blogging, I posted three times per week. To keep this up, and work on articles, my novel and semi-keep up with housework and other basics, like showering (well, practically), I quickly learned that two posts worked better. To keep my novel work a high priority, I blog after, and occasionally as a warmup or break.

2. You aren’t in love with your topics. Perhaps love is a strong word, but if we aren’t excited or at least interested in a topic, our posts will probably fall flat. As many of you know, authenticity rules in social media. Don’t fake it. Change it.

3. Your gut says CHANGE. This holds true for all writing, in my opinion. If the little voice in the back of your head says, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” and the thought makes your heart beat a little faster, the voice is probably right. Nervousness and self-doubt may try to mute that voice. Don’t let it.

4. It feels like trivial homework. Blogging should be fun. Many of us blog as part of an author platform, but that doesn’t mean we should dread or drag ourselves through the experience. Even informative posts should be pleasurable to read and write. And I bet I’m speaking for many when I say I’d rather read a post someone had a blast writing than a “perfect” one.

5. You’re unfulfilled. Fulfillment derives from all sorts of stimuli. Posts and topics we care about and interaction with fellow bloggers and readers can be hugely gratifying. If you’re low on the interaction spectrum, make efforts interact more. This post by Kristen Lamb, on improving your “Likability Quotient,” is chock-full of helpful insight. If your posts aren’t gratifying, see #s 1 through 4.

Making changes, and committing to them, can be scary. What if our new content doesn’t jive well with readers? Or topics that seem cool in our heads come out wonky? What if a schedule we set for ourselves seems impossible to maintain? The answer, I’ve decided, is who cares? It’ll all work out somehow, and it’s far better to take the risk—especially if your gut says DO. Transitions may go smooth-as-PB or as clumpy freezer burnt ice cream. Fortunately, the latter—like most obstacles—is fixable. (We can always buy new ice cream. ;))

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you changed your blog? Are you considering changes? I always love gabbing with you.

Social Media Fitness for Authors: Happy Findings

Before August of last year, social media seemed like a chore I didn’t have time for. Between novel and article writing, I figured, how could I possibly squeeze it in? Thirteen months later, I consider it not only vital, but fun. What a difference a year makes.

After signing with my agent, I wanted to know what I could do to enhance my career—aside from revising book one and writing book two. The web is chock-full of resources on writing, agent-seeking and book promoting. Information on the in-between time, however, is scarce. My agent sent me a marketing packet which described active blogging, Facebook and Twitter as essential tools for authors. Fine, I thought. Whatever it takes… But I didn’t expect it to be fun.

I zipped over to Amazon and came across Kristen Lamb’s books, Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer and We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social MediaI took one to the gym, gulping down every word at rapid stairclimber speed. About a zillion lightbulbs went on and for the first time, social media excited me. I starting blogging the next day. It’s ironic that this all went down during exercise; the parallels between physical and social media fitness are near perfect.

Meeting Kristen Lamb and other writer friends at conferences rocked my year.

Physical Fitness and Social Media Fitness: (Practically) The Same Darn Thing

Many of us start exercising to lose weight and look better, and because we believe we “should.” Getting started can be tough and intimidating. We might fear looking like fools at the gym in a sea of svelte bodies, dread waking up early or hitting the trails after work; it’s not how we want to spend our time. At first, it HURTS. Every step feels difficult and exhausting as we struggle to adapt physically and to balance our new habits with other aspects of our busy lives.

Over time, though, we start looking and feeling better. Pretty soon, aesthetic reasons aren’t what drives us. We’re happier. We make better friends and partners. We sleep better at night, wake up refreshed, experience less stress and perform better at work. We even start enjoying exercise. If we don’t, we make it enjoyable—that is if we want to continue reaping benefits. Physical fitness becomes the byproduct of a healthy lifestyle.

Many authors join social media to gain readers and sales and because we feel we “should.” But if we approach it properly, those benefits become a byproduct of a healthy, happy writer’s lifestyle—minus the hamstring aches of lunges. 😉 

Social media helps break up my day, makes me feel part of a supportive community, introduces me to fantastic friends, takes up far less time than I feared and even strengthens my writing. And I’ve been thrilled to learn that yapping our heads off about ourselves and our work doesn’t help. The keys are supporting and interacting with others and sharing content we feel passionate about—whether we strive to educate, entertain or inspire. Chances are that content will strike a chord with others.

Like physical fitness, gimmicks and shortcuts (endless auto-tweets, buying followers, having others blog for you…) don’t work. Neither does fixating on “the numbers.” Authenticity rules, and if we don’t have fun, we won’t be successful. As a girl who wrote papers to get out of phys. ed. and struggled with food, weight and dieting issues for years, trust me—I know.

I’m grateful every day for the supportive readers and friends I’ve gained. Success is no longer my driving force, but I believe it will come—as it has for many authors.

Key findings from a Neilsen report published in 2011:

  • Social networks and blogs dominate Americans’ time online, accounting for nearly a quarter of total internet time.
  • Nearly 4 in 5 active internet users visit social networks and blogs routinely.
  • Americans spend more time on Facebook any other U.S. website.
  • Nearly 40 percent of social media users access social media from their cell phone.
  • Internet users over age 55 are driving social networking growth through the mobile Internet
  • Many women view online video on social networks and blogs, but men are the heaviest online video users overall. They stream more videos and watch them longer.
  • 70 percent of adult social networkers shop online—12 percent more than the average adult internet user.
  • 53 percent of active adult social networkers follow a brand (such as authors) and 32 percent follow a celebrity.
  • Based on 10 major global markets, social networks and blogs reach over three-quarters of active internet users.
  • Blogs and social networks rule American internet time—more so than email—accounting for 23 percent of time spent online.

Fabulous related links:

Lisa Hall-Wilson: 6 Social Media Platforms – Which is bight for you?
Kristen Lamb: Everything We Need to Know About Social Media Success, We Learned in Kindergarten

How does social media influence your writing life, craft or career?  Any tips to share with newbies? 

Thank you for your ongoing support. You’ve helped me grow and brightened my days more than you know. 

Thoughtful Blog Reading: Habits and Perks

Thoughtful readers can transform desert-like blogs into decadent desserts.

If you maintain a blog, you probably remember the first time you filled up a draft page then hit publish. Perhaps you worried that no one would read your post—or that everyone, including your mother-in-law, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend and neighbor you pissed off, would. In either case, I bet you felt a rush when comments and subscribers trickled in. (Well, depending on the comments… ;)) Your readership has probably grown since then and with it, your appreciation.

When Raani York nominated me for the Reader’s Appreciation Award, I was giddy—and not just because she’s a terrific gal. Any chance to say THANKS to readers is well worth it. First I thought I’d share the makings of a thoughtful reader and the super perks of being one.

Thoughtful blog readers tend to…

…read, rather than glimpse at, posts.
…choose and read posts with titles or topics they’re intrigued by or care about.
…post genuine, heart-felt or hilarious comments.
…share desirable blog links on community sites, like Facebook, Twitter, WANA International and Google+.
…subscribe to blogs they enjoy.
…visit beloved blogs often.

Benefits of Thoughtful Blog-Reading

Fun, inspiration and education: With the many millions available to us, it’s not difficult to find blogs that strike our funny bones or hearts. We can learn about animals from Amy Shojai, glamping (glamour + camping) gear from Natalie Hartford, surviving a creative existence from Chuck Wendig and building online communities and platforms from Kristen Lamb. Doing research for a new novel? Why not seek out blogs related to your topic? Yes, we should keep in mind that we’re reading blogs, not textbooks or the New York Times. But  you know what? I’ve learned a heck of a lot from blogs and blogging friends.

Friendships and community: We can make friends, and not merely with the bloggers we follow. I’ve encountered fabulous new blogs I read regularly now, after admiring their thoughtful comments on others’ posts. Our comments could spark conversations, inspire more blog posts (hopefully with proper credit ;)) and gain attention from readers throughout the web. You just never know who’ll read your comments, follow you on Twitter or “Like” you on Facebook in response to your thoughtfulness.

Reciprocation: Supporting others through thoughtful comments and shares tends to bring that boomerang directly back. It’s not the main reason we should read and support blogs in my opinion, but it’s definitely an added perk. The more we give, the more we’re likely to receive.

Gratification: It feels good to support others, particularly when we believe in the work. I read posts by numerous bloggers who’ve never, to my knowledge, read mine. That’s fine with me. We should give for the sake of giving, IMO. I’m usually compelled to comment or share the links simply because they’re so darn awesome. (In this way, sharing makes US look good—quality links shared with our own readers. More “frosting.” ;))

I’d love to give this award to all of you. The fact that you’re reading this warms my heart. Please feel free to carry Reader Appreciation on via your blog. I’ve also selected a handful of recipients to highlight. As you’ll see, thoughtful blog commenting and fantastic blog writing go hand-in-hand.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you love most about blog reading? Have you been surprised by readers’ thoughtfulness (or lack thereof)? Do you consider yourself a thoughtful blog reader? Why or why not?

The Bodacious Blogger’s Essential Ingredients

I’ve never been great at following recipes, perhaps because my first works of fiction were faux cakes and pizzas baked in my magical kitchen. (Okay, the sandbox.) My recipe ineptness has its perks, though. First, it’s made coming up with my own concoctions practically necessary. (I’m happy to report that they no longer taste like air or sand.) Second, it prepared me for writing, on the page and in the blogosphere.

Like baking a cake, there is no one “right” way or “perfect” recipe to achieve blogging success. But there are useful guidelines…

Essential Ingredients for Blogging Bodacious-ness

1. Authenticity. We hear this word a lot in regards to blogging, for good reason. Writing about issues and topics we care about, in our own voice makes for captivating posts. Our blogs should be natural extensions—or reflections—of us and what our brands represent. In other words, bake your own “cake” from scratch, using your own ingredients (your thoughts, beliefs, knowledge…). Readers can tell if we use a mix or swap the bakery label for our own. 😉

2. Readability. Ever looked at a recipe and felt so daunted by the tiny print, long lists of unpronounceable ingredients or lack of photos? I personally believe that posts should be as long as they need to be. Breaking up longer paragraphs with spaces, bullet points or photos, and using clear fonts and non-distracting themes can help ensure a comfy reading experience.

3. Takeaways. Imagine going to a cooking demo and leaving with an empty, ravenous belly. Might be okay if the chef was highly entertaining, but if not, your low blood sugar and emotional upset would probably prevent you from visiting again. Blogging works similarly. Giving our readers some sort of takeaway, be it entertainment, inspiration or how-to tips, functions like welcome and thank you gifts, bundled into one.

4. Supportiveness. When I was a kid, I loved going door-to-door selling everything from candy and cookies to 1-child plays. But I was weird. And have grown up since then. Not only is pushiness counter-productive for writers, but ineffective. (Thank goodness!) Supporting others creates connectedness and community. Visit others’ blogs. Follow those you find intriguing. Post thoughtful comments when a post strikes you, and share links you enjoy. (Not convinced? Read social media guru Kristen Lamb’s post, 10 Ways to Increase Your Likability Quotient.)

5. Effective Titles. Would you have read this post if I titled it, Random Stuff? “With 500,000 new blog posts published per day on WordPress.com sites alone, we can’t afford to use vague or boring titles if we want our blog to stand out in tweets or in someone’s Google reader,” Marcy Kennedy, one of my favorite bloggers, wisely said. For more of her insight, read Four Little-Known Factors that Could Destroy Your Blog’s Chances of Success.

Bloggers Who Take the Cake
The proof is in the pudding, right??? The following bloggers bodacious supreme, in my opinion. They have their ingredients and style down pat, never cease to inspire, entertain or teach, and continually bring joy to my cyber-villa. I’ve awarded each blogger one of my cake concoctions.

Natalie Hartford takes the Pink Rainbowlicious Cake for bedazzling the blogosphere with her unique enthusiasm, color and pizazz. She’s as sweet as her blog is PINK! She spilled some of her fab blogging secrets here: Keeping Your Blogging Mojo Alive and Burning.

Tameri Etherton takes the Berry Yummy Oatmeal cake. She’s wholesome, fun and nurturing, with no need for added sweetener. Because Tameri loves happy endings, her natural cake has sweet surprises inside.

Louise Behiel takes the Sassy Salmon Cakes. Louise never fails to educate and inspire. Her gluten-free cakes are fortifying, like her posts, and delicious, much like her friendship and support. She recently shared 8 Steps to an Emotionally Rich Family, and drew a brilliant comparison between old-fashioned radios and kids.

Kourtney Heinz takes the Flourless Chocolate Cake for her rich writing skills and ability to savor every bit. No room for extra fluff in this writing woman’s life! You’ll see what I mean when you read her captivating post, Looking at Who You Were. Loved loved loved it.

Amber West takes the Fortune Cookie Cupcake for her entertaining, inspirational and grin-inducing posts. Her Friday Inspiration series is loaded with insight, and she’s consistently one of the first to lend a helping hand.

Susie Lindau takes the Crazy Cake. Whether Susie is giving us glimpses of her “wild ride,” throwing blog bashes or sporting flash fiction, her blog is a crazy-cool treat. Oh, and she’s also a mass murderer

Roni Loren takes the Hot Fodue Cake. Her novel, Crash Into You, caused more perspiration than the stairclimber I read it on. If you know what I mean. It’s one of my favorite reads of 2012, and her writing/blogging posts are some of the best. As for the “cake” portion of this recipe, that’s up to YOU. 😉

Nigel Blackwell takes the Blappleberry Pie Cake for his ability to blend education, entertainment and wit. His post, A Non-Controversial Sockumentary, is one of the most entertaining post I’ve ever read.

Jennifer L. Oliver and M.G. Miller take the (Practically) Instant Chocolate Cake, for Jennifer’s fine author interviews—her latest of which featured M.G. and his spectacular book, Bayou Jesus. Read it. Once you start, you won’t want to waste time slaving over baked goods. This whole grain cake takes minutes in the microwave. And it’s delish.

Debra Kristi, Coleen Patrick, Fabio Bueno and Ellie Ann Soderstrom take Health-Nut Choco-Copia Cake for their versatile mix of upbeat, inspiring posts on everything from mythology and HILARIOUS mistaken song lyrics, to family pets and sustainable agriculture. You can’t go wrong with these sweet tweeps. Ya just can’t.

So there you have it. My baker’s dozen. (Told you we bloggers can break rules. ;)) What blogging ingredients do you find most important? What kind of cake might your blog be?

****If you’re interested in preparing one of the cakes above, hop over to my Facebook author page and place your vote!****

#Pinterest & Blogging: 7 Keys to Success

Like many, I was hesitant about joining Pinterest, particularly before the recent copyright changes. Though I dug the concept, it sounded like a time-sucker and more fun than vital. When I learned that it’s the fastest growing social media platform, a top referrer to retailers and appeals particularly to educated women, I figured it was time to research my brains out look into it. I’m so glad I did.

Pinterest is now the third most popular social network, according to a new Experian study, behind Facebook and Twitter. And retailers are not the only beneficiaries. Crystal Underwood’s tips-for-mommas blog leapt from 100 hits per day to up to 7000 after she embraced the virtual pin boards. Design blogger Jessica Colaluca, one of Mashable’s “21 Must-Follow Pinterest Users,” credits Pinterest for 35 percent of her estimated one million-plus monthly hits. And major publications, including Elle magazine, Martha Stewart Living and Cooking Light, are taking Pinterest by storm.

“We are seeing traffic increases and high engagement, and [Pinterest] is great branding for us to get our content out there.” — Keith Pollock, editorial director of Elle.com

Whether you’ve joined Pinterest or not, making your posts more “pinnable” can enhance your blogging experience on multiple levels. There are loads of ways to obtain blogging and Pinterest success. Read on for my favorites…

1. Fill your blog with high-quality content. Joining Pinterest will not automatically stimulate quality blog hits (i.e., readers who linger, comment, subscribe and interact), even if you post visually-stunning images. Why? Because successful blogging takes lots more than pretty pictures. Pinterest can help open the door to our sites. Posting captivating content will keep guests from fleeing to the neighbors.’

2. Be authentic. Many of us recognize that authenticity makes for better posts and more enjoyment for us and our readers. The same applies to Pinterest. If you’re not a foodie, featuring glamorous food photos simply because the images are popular is counter-productive. Withholding your passions and interests can have similar effects. People sense falsity, so steer clear of it. Pinterest’s updated etiquette tips say it best: “Pinterest is an expression of who you are.”

3. Give to give. Giving of ourselves also enhances enjoyment—ours and our readers. If you, and by extension your brand, is entertaining, provide entertainment. If your brand is inspiring, inspire. Have cooking, cleaning or photography skills? Share some pointers. Such giving attracts like-minded readers to our blogs, who will appreciate what you offer. In return, you’re likely to gain subscribers, comments and, when applicable, sales. This practice reminds me of exercise. Many of us start working out because we believe we should. The emotional benefits—better moods, sleep quality, energy…—keep us at it.

4. Get creative with titles, photos and topics. Using your authentic self to conjure up snappy titles, eye-catching graphics and topics you genuinely dig is a great way to lure people from Pinterest to your blog. It also encourages re-pins and comments. Just make sure that your post’s content is at least as entertaining, inspiring, though-provoking or delightful.

5. Use your own photographs or self-concocted graphics. If you feature stock photography in a blog post, the pin should technically link to the stock company—not your site. Creating your own photos and graphics allows you to convey precisely what you wish to, without infringing upon copyright laws. Adding your website address to images can help draw more eyes to your site, particularly if you pin a photograph without any text. (Check out my example above. If I can create graphics, trust me—you can, too. ;))

6. Keep your blog and pin boards in mind in the “real” world. I only recently signed up for Pinterest. Already, it’s opened my mind up to cool new ways to use it. I tote and use my camera more often and have been dabbling in graphic techniques. Just as life inspires blog topics, knowing our posts could appear on Pinterest can inspire us to seek out photographable moments that coincide. Best of all, the process feels more like fun than work—how life should feel, IMHO.

7. Support others. As with other social media platforms, rambling on about ourselves, our products or our work generally evokes one thing: annoyance. We all know how frustrating endless pitches from a particular salesperson can be. If you’d slam the door on your content if it appeared at your door, switch gears. Comment on, follow and share others’ fabulous posts and pins on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and/or your blog.

Extra pointers:

  • Don’t only pin blog posts. Share and celebrate your interests. If your blog is serious, show your goofy side, and vice versa. You can also use Pinterest boards as tools to organize your favorite products, articles, books and so on.
  • Link your Pinterest account to Facebook and/or Twitter. Mine is linked to Facebook, which allows me to interact with people on both networks with one post. I then Tweet pins selectively. Experiment with both, then decide.
  • Invite your friends to Pinterest. Lisa Hall-Wilson and I both have group boards, which are a great way to join forces with like-minded folks. If you’re interested in joining my group, Writers United, drop me a note: august@augustmclaughlin.com.
  • To encourage readers to pin your posts, add a “Pin it” button to your share options, and a “Follow Me on Pinterest” widget to your theme.
  • Focus on quality and connections, not “the numbers.” Gargantuan numbers of hits can be fun to see on your blog dashboard, but it doesn’t mean much if people spend little time reading or enjoying your content. I’d rather have a handful of close-knit, supportive connections than boatloads of rapid clicks. Wouldn’t you?

I’d love to hear from you. Any of these tips strike a chord with you? Any to add? Thoughts on Pinterest in general?

#Pinterest: How to Pin Without Getting Arrested

Okay, so even before the Pinterest copyright changes, it’s highly unlikely any of us would have been locked up for pinning. To my knowledge, no pinner has been jailed, fined, tarred or feathered—at least not for pinning. But there has been tremendous concern over the social media giant’s potential to infringe on copyright holders. Lucky for the millions of “pinners” worldwide, however, much of that has changed.

Effective today, Pinterest no longer asserts the right to “sublicense” or “sell” pinned images. The company has also removed the word ‘irrevocable’ from the copy right license and updated their terms in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

What does this mean to Pinterest users? Here are the main points:

  • We can now safely pin our own images and most images linked to original sources.
  • If someone re-pins ours images without proper citation, we can report it by filing a copyright infringement notification. If the claim is deemed valid, pins in question will be removed.
  • If we pin an image without proper linkage, we might get flagged. Pinterest can remove the image and notify us that we’ve overstepped bounds. We then have the option of contesting the claim.
  • If we collect enough warnings, we can be removed from Pinterest and, potentially, face legal repercussions. (Similar results can stem from posting images we don’t hold rights to on our blogs.)

8 Tips for Safe Pinning:

1. Pin your own images or graphics, linked to your website. This not only helps ensure that your images are credited to you, but can increase traffic to your site. If you’re not handy with a camera, create text graphics like these.

2. If you find a random image you’d like to use on the web, seek permission from the owner. If credited properly, many photographers and artists appreciate the publicity. They may also share your link with their circle of friends.

3. Don’t pin personal images you don’t want re-pinned by others. This may seem obvious, but many of us post personal photos on social media sites without much thought. If a photo contains other people, asking their permission is a good idea.

4. If you notice that someone hasn’t linked a pin properly, tell them. It may take a while for people to get a hang of proper pinning. Most of us want our links shared. So if you notice that someone hasn’t given you credit, thank them then suggest adding a link. You can also direct them to the copyright terms.

5. Use credible websites. Google Images is not a valid source for books, food, fashion or other goods. If you dig a Banana Republic top, link the image to BananaRepublic.com, not Google or your blog. Use Mac.com for Mac products, Amazon.com for books you’ve found there, CookingLight.com for Cooking Light photos and so on.

Clicking the pins on my non-fiction board brings you to each book's purchase screen on Amazon.com.

6. Install and use the “Pin It” button. This allows you to pin images from websites to your boards, and links it appropriately—assuming the site owns the image. To nab the “Pin It” button, click here or visit the Goodies section on your Pinterest homepage.

7. Include the URL in pin descriptions. Though not required, this helps ensure that the original source gains credit. URLs appear as hyperlinks, which tend to invite more ‘clicks.’

8. If you’re unsure of an image source, seek it out. Google can help you determine the original source of a photo. For a step-by-stey tutorial, check out this post by The Graphics Fairy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you on Pinterest? How do you feel about the copyright changes? Any Pinterest topics you’re dying to learn more about? (I’m planning a series of Pinterest-themed posts, so feel free to make requests!)